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Travels With a Hospitality Career Consultant: On the Road with Kimberly Ramsawak

This is a traveler case study. (Read others or nominate yourself.)

Tell us about yourself.

I’m a career consultant specializing in the tourism and hospitality, and I’m a passionate advocate for people of color in this industry. A common misconception is that industry jobs are only available at hotels, airlines or agencies—with really low pay.

As a result I started Tourism Exposed, an online career development community that shows students and professionals how to break into the travel industry. While doing this since I was 23, I have traveled to over eighty cities across five continents.

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What inspired you to travel?

My Caribbean immigrant parents took me to Trinidad and Tobago every summer to visit relatives. I fell in love with different cultures and grew up thinking that traveling was a normal way to live one’s life.

I discovered I needed travel in college, where I suffered from an ongoing case of “travel-sickness” (the reverse of homesickness). While my friends were worrying about dating and exams, I was daydreaming about where to go during summer break and strategizing about how to expand studying abroad for more than one semester. I loved the anticipation of being on a plane, the places I had yet to see, and people I’d yet to meet.

How do you pay for your travels?

I pay for my travel by saving up for a year prior to my travel dates. All my trips take place as vacation from my full time gig. I use Delta SkyMiles and American Express Membership Rewards points when I can, but I’m not an avid travel hacker.

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Do you have an encounter from the road that sticks out in your mind?  

Getting a massage in Shanghai, China was quite a trip. I’d been on a business trip and found a reputable place near my hotel for a full-body massage. I was served tea and shown to a private room, which was nice – though I was not asked to undress as is customary in America. As a very dainty woman started to massage me and I thought to myself, I am going to take a nap.

A nap is not what happened.

I had no idea that Chinese massages had a reputation for being painful. The woman definitely became more forceful, and I swore her elbow was going to go through my back. She kept saying, “Relax, relax, muscles very tight.” For an hour I mustered up all the strength I could to relax while not wincing in pain. When the massage was done, she gave me a glass of water and said, “No work hard.”

Despite the pain, her sincere words resonated with me, and I thought about them a lot upon returning home. She was absolutely right.

The great debate: aisle or window?

Aisle! I hate being confined next to the window.

What has surprised you on the road?

I’m shocked by the number of people who are surprised to see a woman traveling alone—and that she’s happy about it. American women aren’t known for solo traveling except for girls in their 20’s who are working or studying abroad. As a 30-something American, I’m an anomaly. Yet I’ve met women of all ages from Europe and Asia who travel by themselves. It’s interesting how culture seems to inspire or inhibit travel.

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Best travel tips. Go!

Get your hotel’s business card.

It’s always handy to have your accommodation’s phone number and address handy, doubly so when you don’t speak the language.

Don’t let miles and points cloud your judgement.

Choose your plane ticket, hotels and activities, based on the best value for your trip and what you really want to experience, not just because you can earn extra miles.

What did we miss?

I always try to visit local bookstores and music shops when I travel internationally. As a wanderer at heart and a serious expert in the art of people watching, I love seeking out interesting, hard to find neighborhoods where I can be a witness to the daily comings and goings of local communities.

Where are you headed next?

I’m hoping to visit South Africa and Greece with my husband this year. My ultimate dream trip, however, is to go to Dubai and Abu Dhabi! Someday…

Follow Kimberly’s journey at Tourism Exposed or via Twitter @KimRamsawak.

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